Most of us do not realize that there is much more to Arizona than the Grand Canyon, rodeos, and spas (although these are all really cool things). The state of Arizona is full of amazing, weird, and wonderful places to visit and things to do.
Photo by Les Haines via Flickr Creative Commons
If you are heading to Arizona in 2016, here’s a quick guide to many of the traditional, offbeat, and all around great things to do.
1. See the Sunset in Monument Valley
Watching the sun drop behind the beautiful rock formations in Monument Valley is a breathtaking experience. If you visit Arizona, make the effort to spend at least one evening doing this. However, don’t pack up your lawn chairs and leave once the sun dips below the horizon. Stick around to enjoy the stars in the night sky.
2. Ride a Mule Into the Grand Canyon
Mule rides are one of the most popular experiences among people visiting the Grand Canyon. In fact, the national park service begins booking these excursions more than a year in advance. If you want a beginner’s experience, you can take an hour-long trek. If you think you are up for something a bit more challenging, you can try a two–to-a-mule ride that includes a two-night camping experience.
3. Have a Slice of Pie at the Rock Springs Cafe
Actually, you could do well by eating an entire meal at this little cafe, but if you don’t have time stay very long, at least enjoy a piece of pie. Once you are finished with your favorite slice a la mode, you’ll want to buy a whole pie for the road.
4. Play Golf in the Middle of Winter
There’s a reason that golfers flock to Arizona when winter hits. While golf courses in other parts of the country are often closed for the season, golf courses in Arizona are open all year long. If you have never played golf, don’t let that stop you from enjoying a few days in the sun. You can always take a few golf lessons. This way, you can enjoy the day out with your golf buddies and keep up with the more experienced golfers.
5. Do a Shot or Two on Whisky Row
Normally, it is a bit cringe inducing to recommend a celebrity owned restaurant or bar. After all, doesn’t it just reek of pretension? I’ve decided to make an exception in this case. This place is the real deal, and an amazing place to stop and do a few shots with the locals.
6. See the Jail That Tried to Make an Escape
Jerome Arizona was settled as a mining town. As you might expect, whisky ran freely, and the miners didn’t always behave according to the laws of the land. There were thefts, fist fights, gun fights, and other acts of mischief and mayhem. In order to maintain some semblance of law and order, a jail was built to house the worst offenders. Unfortunately, the jail was located above and around areas where the miners frequently detonated sticks of dynamite and blasting caps. The result was that the jail structure soon broke away from its foundation and began sliding down the mountain.
7. Go to the Carnival of Illusion
This isn’t a Vegas-style magic show. It’s much better than that. This is a Vaudeville style theatrical event that combines magic, music, and theater with great results. It is also magic delivered on your level, just a few feet away, not 20 feet up in the air on an illuminated mega stage.
8. Listen to Music at the Fiddler’s Dream Coffee House
Fiddler’s Dream Coffee House is a family-friendly musical venue and coffee house. It is a great place to bring family members of all ages to listen to great acoustic music without being exposed to smoking and drinking. Fiddler’s dream is also a not-for-profit organization supporting local acoustic artists. So, you can feel great about all of the cups of coffee and baked goods you enjoy while listening to both local and national artists.
9. Visit the Heard Museum
Photo by BellaEatsBooks via Flickr Creative Commons
The Heard Museum is a space dedicated to the promotion of Native American art and history. Considering the history of the region, it would be almost a sin to visit Arizona without visiting the Heard museum or other location paying tribute to contributions and history of the Native American culture. The Heard Museum houses a variety of permanent collections, but is also the home to many traveling and temporary exhibits. As you would expect, the collections include historic Native American sculptures and paintings. However, the museum also showcases art and music from contemporary Native American artists.
10. Enjoy a Luxury Shopping Experience at the Biltmore Fashion Park
The Biltmore Fashion Park is a grand, open air mall in Phoenix. It features a variety of restaurants, bars, department, and specialty stores. However, it is most known for high fashion boutiques that draw a very sophisticated clientele. If you don’t have the money to spend on designer threads, fear not. Just dress up in your best outfit, make reservations at one of the money restaurants and bars, and spend a few hours sipping cocktails and people watching.
11. Drive Down the Red Rock Scenic Byway
Sedona is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in America. In addition to this, many people visit Sedona for spiritual reasons. They believe that there is something in the magnetic fields that is both healing and balancing. It is the reason why Sedona is home to so many spas and healing centers. No matter what you believe, driving down the Red Rock Scenic Byway can definitely be called a religious experience. The route itself is less than eight miles, but the sites are absolutely amazing. In fact, you may want to bring along a back pack and a canteen because there are plenty of places along the way to park and explore.
12. Visit the Pima Air and Space Museum
If you are passionate about flight and space travel, the Pima Air and Space Museum is a great place to visit. It is one of the largest aerospace museums in the United States, and it includes the space gallery, bone yard, 390th Memorial Museum, and two World War II hangars, each exhibiting flight-related items from the European and Pacific theaters. You can enjoy both self-guided tours and tours led by experienced docents. It probably goes without saying, but this is the perfect place to take kids who are interested in flight and space travel.
One of the great things about this museum is that it has the ability to appeal to nearly everybody. If somebody in your group is an absolute flight nerd who can recite detailed technical information on every plane, rocket, blimp, and space shuttle that has ever left the ground, they are going to have a good time. Those who aren’t as passionate about flight and space travel will still enjoy walking around the museum and admiring the exhibits. Be sure to leave enough time to walk around the outdoor aircraft exhibits. You can get an up close and personal look at planes ranging from a simple Cessna to a B-377SG Super Guppy.
13. Visit the Ruins of Santa Land in the Mojave Desert
Photo by Alan English CPA via Flick Creative Commons
Santa Claus, AZ. In the late 1930s, Nina Talbot got the idea to bring Santa Claus to the Mojave Desert. After all, what better person to make the heat and barrenness more tolerable than Santa Claus? Thus, Santa Land was created. Unfortunately, Santa was unable to work any Christmas miracles, and the investors the owners hoped to draw simply were not interested. A diner within the city limits got a tiny bit of celebrity attention, but overall the place was a flop. Santa Land draws tourists today who enjoy looking at modern wrecks and ruins.
14. Anthem Veteran’s Memorial
There’s always a good reason to take some time out of your day to visit a veterans’ memorial. However, if you only spent time at one veteran’s memorial, it should be this one. The perfect day and time to visit is 11/11 at 11:11. It is at this precise minute when the sunlight makes it through the series of circles, and illuminates the great seal. The time and effort that it took to pull off this visual feat is absolutely astounding and well worth tailoring your visit.
As you can see, there are a ton of places to visit in Arizona. If your ideal trip to Arizona involves hiking, camping, and enjoying nature, you are sure to have a great time. On the other hand, if your interests are a bit more quirky and theatrical, you will also find many fun things to do in Arizona. Children can also enjoy sight seeing in the state of Arizona with their parents. No matter what, we hope that this list of attractions will help you plan your next vacation to the beautiful state of Arizona!